WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden called protests in Cuba “remarkable” and a “clarion call for freedom,” praising thousands of Cubans who took the streets to snort food shortages and excessive prices amid the coronavirus crisis — one in all the island’s biggest antigovernment demonstrations in fresh memory.
“The Cuban of us are demanding their freedom from an authoritarian regime. I don’t mediate we’ve seen anything savor this snort in a prolonged prolonged time, if, relatively frankly, ever,” Biden said Monday in a temporary exchange with reporters at the start of a meeting with mayors and law enforcement officials to talk about gun violence in the U.S.
The comments marked a notable change in tone from Biden’s aged boss, Barack Obama, who as president sought to ease decades of tensions between Washington and Havana while loosening U.S. imposed financial sanctions. It was an effort that was reversed by Republican President Donald Trump, who partially rolled back Obama’s rapprochement, limiting U.S. travel to the island, banning American financial transactions with dozens of enterprises, and extra.
“We stand with the Cuban of us and their clarion call for freedom and reduction from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and financial suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime,” Biden said in an earlier statement Monday. “The Cuban of us are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights.”
Julie Chung, the acting assistant secretary for the department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, on Sunday urged that the protests have been pushed by Cuban of us exercising “their accurate to peaceful assembly to specific discipline about rising COVID case/deaths & medicine shortage. We commend the various efforts of the Cuban of us mobilizing donations to abet neighbors.”
But White Dwelling press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday sought to frame the protests being pushed by far broader frustration, calling the demonstrations “spontaneous expressions of those that are exhausted with the Cuban govt’s financial mismanagement and repression.”
Psaki added that the U.S. remains ready to assist Cuba in its COVID-19 vaccination effort, however the Cuban govt’s decision to no longer participate in COVAX — a worldwide initiative aimed at distributing vaccines to poorer nations — complicated the effort.
“We certainly examine and understand that access to vaccines is one in all the factors that a want of individuals on the streets is voicing discipline about, but we have to resolve what the mechanism would be to work with the Cuban of us to earn vaccines to them,” Psaki said.
The scene of demonstrators on Havana’s Malecon promenade and in other places on the island was an unusual scene as the communist leadership has historically proven cramped tolerance for criticism. Police initially trailed late as protesters chanted “Freedom,” “Ample” and “Unite.” One motorcyclist pulled out a U.S. flag, but it was snatched from him by others.
About 2 1/2 hours into the march, some protesters pulled up cobblestones and threw them at police, at which point officers began arresting of us and the marchers dispersed. AP journalists counted at least 20 those that have been taken away in police cars or by individuals in civilian garments.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., lashed out at Biden for taking a elephantine day to acknowledge the protesters, noting on Twitter that Biden’s statement didn’t narrate the Cuba govt as “ socialist and communist.”
“The protests in #Cuba began over 24 hours ago And you forgot something,” Rubio said.
Biden said on the campaign trail that he would largely reverse Trump’s Cuba policy and return to Obama-era policies. But Biden has largely kept Trump’s policies in the place in the early going.
Rubio in a letter Monday called on the president to take a series of steps in toughen of the protesters, including making free satellite cyber net access available on the island; rallying Western Hemisphere and European Union leaders to sentence the Cuban govt’s efforts to stifle the inform of protesters; and making “a clear and unambiguous statement that the latest U.S. policies towards the regime carried out by the Trump Administration will remain in place.”
Administration officials said their review of Cuba policy is ongoing.
“We’re having a search for carefully and carefully at what has suitable happened, what indeed is happening,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. “And as we stated many occasions, at the heart of the review and at the heart of the policy that would consequence are democracy and human rights. That’s core to our efforts. That will seemingly be reflected in the policy.”